The Union Cabinet approved a Viability Gap Funding support of up to Rs. 19,041 crore (Out of the total expense of Rs. 29,430 crore) for the implementation of the BharatNet project through Public-Private Partnership model.
- Public-Private Partnership (PPP) involves collaboration between a government agency and a private-sector company that can be used to finance, build, and operate projects. The PPP Model in this critical infrastructure of Telecom is a novel initiative.
- Viability Gap Funding (VGF) means a grant one-time or deferred, provided to support infrastructure projects that are economically justified but fall short of financial viability.
- It is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre. And also a flagship mission implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL).
- BBNL is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) set up by the Government of India under the Companies Act, 1956 with an authorized capital of Rs 1000 crore.
- It is a highly scalable network infrastructure accessible on a non-discriminatory basis, to provide on demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households and on demand capacity to all institutions, to realise the vision of Digital India, in partnership with States and the private sector.
- It is being implemented by the Department of Telecommunication under the Ministry of Communications.
- National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in October 2011 was renamed as Bharat Net Project in 2015.
- NOFN was envisaged as an information superhighway through the creation of a robust middle-mile infrastructure for reaching broadband connectivity to Gram Panchayats.
- In 2019, the Ministry of Communications also launched the ‘National Broadband Mission’ to facilitate universal and equitable access to broadband services across the country.
Current Extension of BharatNet:
- The project will be extended to all inhabited villages beyond the gram panchayats in 16 States which are:
- Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The revised strategy will include creation, upgrading, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet by the private sector partner, who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process.
- The selected private sector partner is expected to provide reliable, high speed broadband services as per predefined Services Level Agreement (SLA).